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War And Peace 437

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War And Peace

giving you everything, my friends, and I beg you to take everything, all our grain, so that you may not suffer want! And if you have been told that I am giving you the grain to keep you here--that is not true. On the contrary, I ask you to go with all your belongings to our estate near Moscow, and I promise you I will see to it that there you shall want for nothing. You shall be given food and lodging." The princess stopped. Sighs were the only sound heard in the crowd. "I am not doing this on my own account," she continued, "I do it in the name of my dead father, who was a good master to you, and of my brother and his son." Again she paused. No one broke the silence. "Ours is a common misfortune and we will share it together. All that is mine is yours," she concluded, scanning the faces before her. All eyes were gazing at her with one and the same expression. She could not fathom whether it was curiosity, devotion, gratitude, or apprehension and distrust--but the expression on all the faces was identical. "We are all very thankful for your bounty, but it wont do for us to take the landlords grain," said a voice at the back of the crowd. "But why not?" asked the princess. No one replied and Princess Mary, looking round at the crowd, found that every eye she met now was immediately dropped. "But why dont you want to take it?" she asked again. No one answered. The silence began to oppress the princess and she tried to catch someones eye. "Why dont you speak?" she inquired of a very old man who stood just in front of her leaning on his stick. "If you think something more is wanted, tell me! I will do anything," said she, catching his eye. But as if this angered him, he bent his head quite low and muttered: "Why should we agree? We dont want the grain." "Why should we give up everything? We dont agree. Dont agree.... We are sorry for you, but were not willing. Go away yourself, alone..." came from various sides of the crowd. And again all the faces in that crowd bore an identical expression, though now it was certainly not an expression of curiosity or gratitude, but of angry resolve. "But you cant have understood me," said Princess Mary with a sad smile. "Why dont you want to go? I promise to house and feed you, while here the enemy would ruin you..." But her voice was drowned by the voices of the crowd. "Were not willing. Let them ruin us! We wont take your grain. We dont agree." Again Princess Mary tried to catch someones eye, but not a single eye in the crowd was turned to her; evidently they were all trying to avoid her look. She felt strange and awkward. "Oh yes, an artful tale! Follow her into slavery! Pull down your houses and go into bondage! I dare say! Ill give you grain, indeed! she says," voices in the crowd were heard saying. With drooping head Princess Mary left the crowd and went back to the house. Having repeated her order to Dron to have horses ready for her departure next morning, she went to her room and remained alone with her own thoughts. CHAPTER XII For a long time that night Princess Mary sat by the open window of her room hearing the sound of the peasants voices that reached her from the village, but it was not of them she was thinking. She felt that she could not understand them however much she might think about them. She thought only of one thing, her sorrow, which, after the break caused by cares for the present, seemed already to belong to the past. Now she could remember it and weep or pray. After sunset the wind had dropped. The night was calm and fresh. Toward midnight the voices began to subside, a cock crowed, the full moon began to show from behind the lime trees, a fresh white dewy mist began to rise, and stillness reigned over the village and the house. Pictures of the near past--her fathers illness and last moments--rose one after another to her memory. With mournful pleasure she now lingered over these images, repelling with horror only the last one, the picture of his death, which she felt she could not contemplate even in imagination at this still and mystic hour of night. And these pictures presented themselves to her so clearly

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